Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Following the Bend Ale Trail : Guest Post by Chris @DrSci

I love the high desert of Oregon.  I have been out there every year since 1998….at least for a couple of days.  This year was no exception.  In the past, we have always made a point to get at least one lunch or one dinner at the Deschutes Bond Street pub.  

Once we got our reservations for a few nights at the Tumalo State Park I started thinking about visiting some of the other breweries that have sprung up in the Bend area.  I had met and talked with a few of the brewers at a Bend/Central Oregon beer event at Beermongers at the start of July.  I gathered a few business cards and put them some place safe at home.  Ya know that means I lost them.  :)

Two days before our trip I started looking around online and discovered the Bend Ale Trail….they even had and Android app for my phone.  I made a deal with my wife, Lyn.  I would buy all lunches and dinners along the trail for this trip and neither of us would need to cook back at camp.  Deal accepted!

We took off last Tuesday and arrived in Bend at around Noon.  After a quick stop at the Visitor Center for our Ale Trail passports, we were off.  

A quick caveat about the following comments – I only take time to describe the beers if there is something outstanding in one direction or the other.  I’m a fan of hoppy IPAs and of malty beers, not necessarily together.  I’m not a huge fan of lagers, blondes, kolschs, etc.  For such lighter things, my decision on whether I like it or not boils down to “would I drink this on a hot day?”  :)

First stop, Boneyard Brewing.  Getting there was a little convoluted from the visitor center, but we made it.  At this point our first stop for lunch was busted.  Boneyard has a small tasting room.  When I was there, they had 4 beers on tap (Black 13, Diablo Rojo, Hop Venom and the Cherry Wheat).  You could try two beers for free or normally pay $5 for one of each beer.  With only 4 on tap, the charge was down to $2 for the four beers.  Did I mention that Lyn doesn’t drink beer?  BONUS!  She asked for the Hop Venom and it was mine…all mine!  I’m a fan of Boneyard.  My first introduction to any of their beers was last year’s Nano Fest where they were serving Black 13, a nice, malty black ale.  We had our free samples and took off to find lunch.  I had two hungry teenagers waiting for me…almost patiently…almost.

For our next stop, we went to Silver Moon Brewing.  This was one of my favorite stops.  The food was cheap and good, I had no issues with any of the beers.  This taster tray was $9.  My favorites would have to be the Hop Fury IPA and the Hound’s Tooth Amber.  I even liked the lager and the cream ale, which is saying something for me.

Best of all, Lyn and the kids were now in a better mood with some food and time in an air conditioned room.  

The Hop Fury was my favorite new beer at the Beermonger’s event last month and it was still my favorite out of the tray.  Not overly bitter, some good aroma and a very nice flavor. 

Even the lighter beers were decent, going by my scale for such things.  

Next I consulted my Ale Trail app to see what was closest…  It turns out we were about 3 blocks away from the Deschutes Bond Street pub.

On we went, along the trail…

Normally, we would visit the Bend pub for a dinner, or a lunch, as I said before.  Anyone ever been there for dinner?  They have those annoying pagers that you have to carry around and stay close waiting for your signal that a table is waiting.  This was strategy.  It was close to the Silver Moon and it was still only about 2:30 in the afternoon.  No pagers!

We walked in and had a table within a minute.  I found Solace Rose, a very nice Flanders Brown that had been aged for more than 2 years.  Yum!  Even though they had all had enough in the way of root beer and such things, Lyn and the kids had a little dessert while I sat there in bliss.  This glass was only $4.25, though the desserts cost a heck of a lot more…

By the way, there is a lot of construction in front of the Bond Street pub.  It looks like they are expanding…

By this time, everyone was full.  But we were so close to the next stop on the trail!  The McMenamin’s Old St Francis School was just a few blocks away.  We waddled on and grabbed a quick seat inside the air-conditioned restaurant.  I just grabbed a pint of Triple Beam IPA and got our passports stamped.  Nothing remarkable.  It was an IPA, but it didn’t stand out.  I was under some pressure to get out by the family, so this was a quick pint.    Everybody was full and tired…  On to camp.  We unpacked, set up stuff and sat around recovering from our afternoon for a few hours.

That night we went to Bend Brewing for dinner.  Apologies ahead of time, if you are a fan.  I’m not.  The food was okay, though a bit pricey with a family of four.  I ordered the taster tray ($10) and got this impressive looking platter.  It looked better than it tasted.  I might have had a better impression if the lime wasn’t turning brown and the lemon wasn’t mushy.

After setting those aside, it didn’t get better.  Two of the lighter beers, I think it was the German pilsner and the golden ale both had a flavor reminiscent of vinegar.  The brown ale was okay, the Scotch ale was probably the best of the tray.  Even the IPAs didn’t do much for me.  Maybe I was just there on a bad day.  I might go back to try a pint the next time I’m in town, but I doubt it.  Not when I have better places to go.  That was the end of Day 1.  We had hit 5 breweries and I had sampled 22 beers.

 Day two started with us driving the 20 miles up to Sisters, OR.  There was “extra credit” on the Ale Trail for visiting the brewery in Sisters, Three Creeks Brewing.  They didn’t open until 11:30, so Lyn and the kids explored parts of Sisters while I wandered and waited.  We went in for some appetizers, with the plan of buying lunch back in Bend.  The flat bread with cheese dip was great, though the kids got to most of it while I was sipping my beers.  This taster tray was $10 and included their CDA, 8-second IBA on nitro.  That was a nice and smooth beer.  I really liked the Stonefly Rye and the Five Pine chocolate porter.  One of the lighter beers, I think it was the Knotty Blonde had that vinegar flavor to it again.  It must be a yeast byproduct.  It reminded me of some of the British ales I’ve had in the UK.  Other than that one beer, the others were great.  The IPA was nice, though the rye and the porter were the winners of this tray.  

We got our passports stamped, and it was back to Bend for lunch…

Next stop on the Trail, Cascade Lakes Brewing.   This taster tray was great.  All of $7, it included six 6oz tasters.  The food was great.  I had a great bacon & bleu cheese burger along with this tray.   Everything in this tray was decent.  My favorite was probably the Monkey Face porter, with the 20” Brown a close second.  The lighter beers were decent, by my scale.  If I wasn’t trying to hurry to get to the next place for a tour, I would have stayed to try the other 4 not included with a tray.

Next stop, the Deschutes Brewery.  I don’t know if I have ever gone on the tour and there wasn’t construction going on.  They are getting ready to add three to five 1300 barrel fermenters.  I forget which it was…

The best part about this was the free samples.  I mean, I’ve been on the tour a few times, but when you walk in, they give you 4 free samples.  In my case, this was 8 samples since Lyn doesn’t like beer.  Score!

I had tried everything on tap before, much to the surprise of the servers.  Besides the standard Mirror Pond, Inversion, Black Butte, Green Lakes, and Obsidian, they had Conflux #2, Stoic, Hop in the Dark on tap.  I had tried all of the special beers in Portland.  That didn’t stop me from trying them all again.  I wasn’t going to pass up two samples of the Stoic. 

The kids got free root beer.  By now they had to be getting sick of root beer!  I got a bunch of pics of the tour, but I’ll add those to the end for the people that want to see them.  I do want to acknowledge my saint of a wife.  She doesn’t like beer.  She can’t stand the smell of beer…to the point that when I brew, I’m at a friend’s house.  Lyn graciously put up with the tour and the tasting room.  If you’ve ever gone on a brewery tour, you know that you can’t avoid the smell of malt and hops.  I’m a very lucky guy!

Last stop on the Bend Ale Trail….10 Barrel Brewing.  We had gone back to camp and relaxed for a few hours.  We hit 10 Barrel at about 6.  Originally we were told it would be a 30 minute wait, but 2 minutes later we were seated.   This taster tray had ten beers for $10.  I liked all of the beers here, my favorite was a bourbon barrel ESB, which sounds a bit odd, but it was still good.  The food was good, though a bit expensive for a family of four.

If I could change one thing about this place, I would have liked a complete beer list to go with the tray.  Six of these were special or replacement beers to their regular lineup and having the list say “ask your server” as well as the chalkboard on the opposite wall….I think I had to pester our server at least 3 separate times.   My favorite here was the Daywalker, a Scottish ale.  Very nice.  I had tried a number of the 10 Barrel beers over the last year or so, but this was my first Daywalker.

Well, that was it.   Here is the completed passport.  For our trouble, we got two Beers of Bend books, along with a couple Ale Trail buttons as the “extra credit” for visiting Three Creeks in Sisters.

I tried 49 beers on the trail, a combination of pints, half-pints and tasters…mostly taster trays.  I spend way too much money….taking your entire family is not very cost effective.  No one went hungry…I’m trying not to think about my next Visa bill.  :)